ARGENTINA, Juan Eduardo Villarraza •
In this year of St. Joseph when Pope Francies invites us to see him from different perspectives, I decided to share my testimony of how I have experienced this closeness and fatherly presence of male tenderness through four people who have shaped my life: my grandfather, my dad, Fr. Kentenich, and St. John Paul II. —
In Schoenstatt, we are used to hearing that the voices of the times are the voice of God. And if we add to this what our founder said, that Schoenstatt is for “the past tomorrow”, we can conclude that the message of centredness around the father, the New Person in the New Community, and priestly fatherhood, are a response from God for our times, in which men are seen as dictators who enslave and use women and their family with their strength, or as a social construct that must be deconstructed, thus becoming a kind of formless, innocuous hybrid who is incapable of causing harm, but, at the cost of losing his essence, if we can resort to this philosophical term.
The ideal man in Schoenstatt
The response of that which we carry shows us manhood as puer et pater, child and father or son and father. This is where St. Joseph was a wonderful example. He had a son’s heart, able to listen to what God the Father asked of him in his dreams; but at the same time, had the strength and the courage to take his family to Egypt, facing up to the challenges that this brought. In this sense, Joseph was not any of the caricatures of manhood. Nor was he an aggressive and violent dictator, nor a puppet of social trends who is incapable of knowing who he is or what to do. As the Holy Father stated, he is a father of tenderness, and I will write and share these transparencies in my life.
My fathers of tenderness
Reflecting on God’s footsteps in my life, I can say without doubt, that my paternal grandfather, Julián was a wonderful reflection of St. Joseph. Like him, my grandfather was a man of few words, down-to-earth, hardworking, and very just. With these characteristics, he was able to give his four children a university education. He left his rural Almacén de Ramos Generales that he loved and come to the city to study to become a hospital inspector and to work in this field to support his family. He was a man of great prayer. I remember him praying the rosary with my grandmother Mercedes, something he continued to do as a widower. Together with these virtues, he also displayed tenderness in the poems he wrote for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, tending to his garden (his love for roses is unforgettable), and his faithfulness to his marriage.
My dad was a decisive figure for my attachment to God the Father and my understanding and love for St. Joseph. From his fatherliness I remember him playing with me and my brothers in the patio of our house, making shape shadows when the power went out or practical jokes like stealing a French fry by making us look at a “bird” that wasn’t there. He took us to school and was always there to give us advice when we asked him. I can attest to his tenderness through thousands of memories. Just to mention a few, I remember when I was a child, he would take me fishing in the Paraná River with some friends. The truth was that I wasn’t paying much attention, but among my friends it was an “honor” to catch something, even if it was nothing more than a tilapia. At one point, my dad said that the fish was biting at the bait, and I felt like a hero. Immediately, one of my friends “complained” that it had been Willy, my dad, who fished it, and not me. I didn’t mind. For me it was a victory and I was proud. Only a father’s tenderness can be that creative to help his son.
John Paul II
Karol Józef Wojtyla, now St. John Paul II, accompanied my childhood, adolescence and youth. His magisterium shaped my philosophical and theological education, but it was his personality and charism had the greatest impact on me. This paternity made him a pilgrim throughout the world, visiting countries that were still hostile to the faith, such as “official” Mexico, which was masonic and anticlerical, or his native Poland subjected to Soviet communism, so that he could reach the sheep in the most far-off places. Later, carrying the cross of his illness, he offered his pain for the Church that he served so selflessly. How can one forget, these departures from protocol when he would laugh like a child laughing at a clown. or taking the hand of a small child. I witnessed one of these jokes during an audience in Paul VI Hall in the Vatican in 1995. Ending his catechesis, the Pope mentioned that there was a Mexican delegation in attendance. Immediately, they began to sing: “we see, we feel, the pope is here” and one woman in the group continued to sing when the others had already stopped. John Paul II did not waste a minute to say: “Yes, really, we can see.”
Fr. Joseph Kentenich
Finally, Fr. Joseph Kentenich was a reflection for me of divine fatherhood and of closeness to his patron saint, our Savior’s adoptive father. In this sense one can say that I joined Schoenstatt because of him.
At the age of 16 in 1992, I was invited to go to Florencio Varela, accompanied by boys who would later become my course brothers. I only knew the now Fr. Federico Piedrabuena and knew Pablo by sight, because he was my and Federico’s neighbor. The outcome of this trip is that I fell in love with the MTA. On the 40th anniversary of the blessing of the first daughter shrine in Argentina, and the 50th anniversary of the 20th of January, the second Schoenstatt milestone, I found myself working as a helper, handing out food, drink, washing chairs and meeting many boys from across Argentina. I was able to see families, priests, sisters, all of whom were very happy, singing, listening to talks, speaking about the Covenant of Love, the Blessed Mother, the Boys Youth, the Girls Youth…
But I remember two very significant moments during that ‘92 Jubilee.
The first was in the church dedicated to God the Father, where I was attaching Jubilee stickers to candles. There I heard a comparison between Fr. Kentenich and Jesus and the 14 Stations of the Cross. It didn’t shock me, but it caught my attention.
But the most important, and the moment that I consider to be my entry into and decision to join Schoenstatt was on the night from 19 to 20 January, when the Schoenstatt Family of Argentina made a commitment with the founder. I did not understand what was happening, but I felt that I was a part of it. Today, I know what happened there and I realize that thanks to this experience, I am and will always be another son in this holy family. This connection with our father and founder grew with time and I made a Covenant of Love with him in 2000, on the 25th anniversary of the blessing of the shrine in Loma, where I was living during the last year of my studies in Religious Sciences and Philosophy. Among other things, I asked for his intercession in my educational endeavors, and I must add that I did not fail for a single day in this regard. Truly, I can say that I have known a father, a teacher, and someone who is very close to me, who has impacted me with is tenderness and his closeness.
Gifts are tasks
We already know this expression. We say it often in the Family. I have received many gifts, as you can see in these short lines that I have shared with you. Therefore, I try to put myself to the task of giving others some of this tenderness that I have experienced, and I am not alone in this.
I count also on my brothers in the third course of the Schoenstatt Men’s Federation (for whom I ask for prayers so that we can consolidate ourselves because we recently began this journey together) and with all our members, we try to show the world the infinite tenderness of God the Father that St. Joseph so clearly points out to us.
Juan Eduardo Villarraza.
From the Shrine and the Family of Providencia in Paraná, Entre Rios, Argentina
8 May 2021, feast of Our Lady of Luján, patroness of Argentina
Original: Spanish. Translation: Sarah-Leah Pimentel, Cape Town, South Africa